Friday, May 25, 2012

What Did Ruth Cling To?

Erev Shabbath Qodesh Parashath Bamidbar 5772

The recounting of Creation in the Book of Genesis follows a pattern.  The description of each day concludes in the same way:
בראשית א,ה וַיְהִי-עֶרֶב וַיְהִי-בֹקֶר, יוֹם אֶחָד
Genesis 1:5 ...And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
בראשית א,ח וַיְהִי-עֶרֶב וַיְהִי-בֹקֶר, יוֹם שֵׁנִי
Genesis 1:8 ...And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

But, on the sixth day, the pattern changes slightly:
בראשית א,לא וַיְהִי-עֶרֶב וַיְהִי-בֹקֶר, יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי
Genesis 1:31 ...And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
All of a sudden, a letter "heh" appears in the pattern, where it had been absent until now.  RaSh"I explains this "heh" to mean one of two things, or perhaps both.  The gematria (numerological value) of the letter "heh" is 5.  He suggests this to represent the five books of the Torah.  The alternative is that "the sixth" day is the sixth day of the month of Sivan, in other words, on Shavu'oth, when we received the Torah at Mt. Sinai.

The world was created, at least in part, in order to give Am Yisra'el the merit of receiving the Torah.  And, we see this hinted to, already within the recounting of it Creation in the Book of Genesis.

The sudden appearance of the "heh" here cries out for an explanation.  My guess is that RaSh"I received a tradition regarding this "heh" and passed that tradition onto us.

In the Scroll of Ruth, read publicly or privately by most Jews on Shavu'oth, a non-Israelite woman leaves her people, her family, and her religion, in order to enter Klal Yisra'el.

Ruth's mother-in-law Na'omi attempts to convince her to return to her family after her husband dies.  Her sister-in-law Orpah is convinced.  Ruth is not.
רות א,יד  וַתִּשֶּׂנָה קוֹלָן, וַתִּבְכֶּינָה עוֹד; וַתִּשַּׁק עָרְפָּה לַחֲמוֹתָהּ, וְרוּת דָּבְקָה בָּהּ
Ruth 1: 14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth clung to her. 
The traditional p'shat, or surface meaning of this verse is that Ruth either grabbed Na'omi's garment, or clung to her figuratively.  As we say in English, she "stuck by her."  Applying RaSh"I's take on the letter "heh" here, and suggest that here, too, it represents the Torah.  In addition to being represented by the number 5, Torah is grammatically feminine, albeit so is Na'omi.

And, although, I may be pushing it, I'll just suggest that it is a nice "d'rash," and that two verses later, Ruth, herself states her intentions:

רות א,טז-יז וַתֹּאמֶר רוּת אַל-תִּפְגְּעִי-בִי, לְעָזְבֵךְ לָשׁוּב מֵאַחֲרָיִךְ:  כִּי אֶל-אֲשֶׁר תֵּלְכִי אֵלֵךְ, וּבַאֲשֶׁר תָּלִינִי אָלִין--עַמֵּךְ עַמִּי, וֵאלֹהַיִךְ אֱלֹהָי.בַּאֲשֶׁר תָּמוּתִי אָמוּת, וְשָׁם אֶקָּבֵר; כֹּה יַעֲשֶׂה יְהוָה לִי, וְכֹה יוֹסִיף--כִּי הַמָּוֶת, יַפְרִיד בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵךְ
Ruth 1: 16-17 And Ruth said: 'Entreat me not to leave you, and to return from following after you; for where you go, I will go; and where you sleep, I will sleep; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; where you die, will I die, and there will I be buried; the LORD do so to me, and more also, that [only] death separate us.'
 In other words, she intends to cling the ways of her mother-in-law's people, the way of the Torah.

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